With COVID-19 cases up 1,370% since June 1, Wake County and five local municipalities made the decision today to enact a mask mandate to help stop the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Matt Calabria signed the declaration this afternoon, and it will go into effect on Friday, Aug. 20, at 7 a.m.
Under Wake County’s State of Emergency, the mask mandate requires people, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a face covering when they’re inside public places such as grocery stores, restaurants and retail shops.
It applies to the unincorporated areas of the county, as well as the towns of Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville and Zebulon. The mayors or town councils in each of those municipalities have affirmatively chosen to sign on to the county’s declaration. The City of Raleigh and the Town of Cary have already executed mask mandates for their communities at the county’s recommendation. Together, this group comprises approximately 83% of the county’s total population.
“The virus is surging through our community, and it’s our responsibility to take appropriate steps to protect public health and safety,” said Chairman Calabria. “Science shows wearing a mask reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19, making it one of our greatest weapons in the fight against this harmful virus. Prompt action now will prevent the need for further restrictions and enable us to beat the virus more quickly.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person infected with the original COVID-19 strain has the potential to spread the virus to two people. Data show a person who’s contracted the Delta variant could infect anywhere from five to six and potentially even 10 people.
The mask mandate aligns Wake County and the municipalities with CDC guidance, which recommends everyone in areas designated as having “substantial spread” wear a mask in public indoor settings —even those people who are fully vaccinated. Masks have proven effective in stopping viral spread, keeping infection rates down, preventing further mutations and decreasing deaths.
The purpose of the mandate is to educate the community about the benefits of wearing masks, support employers and others in creating an expectation that masks be worn, and raise awareness about the need to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“With local hospitals reaching critical capacity levels, it’s important that residents do their part to keep our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed,” said Dr. José Cabañas, Wake County’s Chief Medical Officer. “Wearing a mask is a simple step we can all take to protect the health of our loved ones, especially children who aren’t old enough to get the vaccine.”
In addition to wearing masks, Wake County Public Health strongly encourages residents to get vaccinated. No cost COVID-19 vaccines are available to anyone 12 and older at more than 200 providers in Wake County by appointment or walk-in. Vaccination clinics are open in all corners of the county and offer weekend and evening hours. No ID is required. Check out the clinic schedule at WakeGov.com/vaccine.